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Barnwell Theatre, Festival Theatre, Theatre Royal, Cambridge Buddhist Centre

History of Barnwell Theatre

The Barnwell Theatre was opened in 1814, designed by William Wilkins. By 1878 it was in use as a Mission Hall. In the 1920-40s it was revived as a theatre but then closed. It served as a store for electrical goods, then theatre costumes, until it became the Cambridge Buddhist Centre in 1998. The building retains a lot of features of its theatrical past.

Royal Commission Survey of Cambridge 1959: Former Theatre Royal, known originally as Barnwell Theatre, subsequently as the Festival Theatre, now a store … it was built to replace an earlier theatre in Barnwell in 1814 (Cambridge Chronicle 11 Feb., 10 oct 1814), ‘ the fronts of the boxes are painted in arabesque and the proscenium which is supported by four Giallo Antiquo ,marble pilasters is really simple and magnificent … the frieze is ornamented with figure in rechausee d’or representing Apollo and Minerva visiting the Muses; the design of the proscenium is carried through the Act Scene…’ In 1815 William Wilkinssen., ’eminent builder in this town’,¬†appeared in a lawsuit as owner and in 1832 a Mr Wilkins owned six theatres, at Norwich, Bury, Cambridge, Ipswich, Yarmouth and Colchester (ibid. 1832)….. the theatre is of interest for the retention of the early 19th century¬†arrangement of the¬†auditorium.

Theatre Royal Plan


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